As we’ve talked about, you have to toughen your kids up. No one is well-served by parents who are soft, who let them be soft.
But at the same time, many a tough parent has had to come to terms with the fact that every kid is different and needs different things. The great Chesty Puller, maybe the toughest Marine of all time, had to figure out how to best work with his son Lewis, who wore glasses and was sensitive and not naturally athletic. Did that mean he gave up on him? No, of course not—but neither did he bully or browbeat his son.
Cato the Elder designed all sorts of challenges for his son Marcus, but as Plutarch writes, he had to account for the fact that his son was his own person. “Since his body was not strong enough to endure the extreme hardship,” we’re told, “Cato was obliged to relax, a little, the extraordinary austerity and self-discipline of his own way of life.”
As it should be!
We don’t raise tough kids by inflicting pain on them. We raise tough kids by teaching them—lovingly, patiently, understandingly—how to grow past their limits. Still, we respect those limits. We realize that each of us has different strengths, different weaknesses, and in appreciating that, we can find ways to develop them into their own unique and special self.
We create challenges for them, but we are not the challenge. No, we are their ally. We are on their team. We love them. We’re working with and for, not against them.